Winter provides fewer hours of daylight and brings adverse weather conditions – neither of which are conducive to safe working. Cutting back trees in poor light is very different from pruning at other times of year and can catch greenkeepers out.
Additionally, conditions under any form of ladder or work platform, may be wet and slippery, or the land may have been made unstable through rainfall. Risk assessments should, therefore, be reviewed frequently, as risk on and around the course can be a very different beast from one season to the next.
Wet or icy conditions in winter can be dangerous underfoot, whether you are a greenkeeper, a player, or a visitor to the clubhouse. Public areas may need gritting and players may need to be prevented from playing the course, or be banned from using buggies, according to whether the course is iced over or flooded in parts.
Greens can also suffer, which often means changing the ‘traffic flow’ of players, to speed up course recovery from wear and tear. Temporary greens are popular options in winter, enabling greenkeepers to work on holes requiring extra maintenance. This comes with some danger, as a course regular may not be aware of the green change and could fire a ball off towards the area at which work is taking place. If any layout changes are required, members need to be fully briefed.
A move from triplex mowing to pedestrian mowing is another frequent winter change. Risk assessments should reflect alterations in maintenance methodologies and training should be provided for anyone operating equipment that is new to them. Other tasks, such as path laying, may introduce new types of risk too.
The application of low-nitrogen feeds and pesticides brings its own dangers, whether during handling, formula make-up, or whilst stored. Pest control is another area of risk, whether staff are handling poisons, or laying traps. Training in correct lifting techniques may also be required.
Keeping on top of a multitude of course risks alone can be daunting and the whole procedure of risk assessments and compliance becomes even more onerous when risks in other parts of the club are considered. Offices, bars and restaurants, leisure complexes and fitness rooms all have their own risks that need to be covered by a risk assessment and health and safety training.
Given the size of the task – and the legal obligation to be compliant – golf clubs are turning to our golf risk management team at Gauntlet Group. This is particularly true where volunteers largely run the club and do not wish to risk possible legal ramifications, should something go wrong.